Senate Bill Filed to Extend FAA's Fatigue Rule

If enacted into law, the Safe Skies Act would ensure that the FAA's pilot fatigue rule applies to pilots of cargo planes, just as it soon will to pilots of passenger aircraft.

Three U.S. senators -- Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. -- have introduced the Safe Skies Act in the Senate. If enacted into law, it would ensure that the FAA's pilot fatigue rule applies to pilots of cargo planes, just as they soon will to pilots of passenger aircraft.

"This legislation will ensure that pilots of passenger planes and cargo planes are flying under the same standard," Boxer said. "We must close this dangerous loophole to ensure that cargo pilots are well-rested before they fly."

The Colgan Air crash near Buffalo, N.Y., prompted legislation from Boxer and Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, directing DOT to write new rules to address pilot fatigue. The new rules will take effect in January and will limit pilots of passenger planes to flying either eight or nine hours, depending on the start time. Airlines will be required to provide pilots a minimum of 10 rest hours, with the opportunity for at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.

But FAA excluded pilots of cargo planes from the rules, which means cargo pilots can be on duty for up to 16 hours a day. The Airline Pilots Association, the Independent Pilots Association, and the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations support the new bill.

It already has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., and Rep. Timothy Bishop, D-N.Y. Both joined Boxer, Klobuchar, and Capt. Chesley Sullenberger and other pilots Nov. 13 at a news conference in the U.S. Capitol to show their support for the bill.

"Flight safety should be our top priority, regardless of what an aircraft is carrying. Just because pilots are transporting cargo instead of passengers, doesn't make them or the crew members less tired after a long flight; the level of fatigue remains the same. In order to ensure the safety of our skies, it simply makes sense to have a uniform standard for the rest requirements of all flight crews. That is why I introduced the Safe Skies Act in the House, and I thank Senator Boxer for partnering with me on this important issue by introducing the Senate companion," Grimm said.

"The UPS pilots applaud Senator Boxer for her unwavering commitment to one level of safety and for her long standing leadership on ending the cargo carve out," said Capt. Robert Travis, president of the Independent Pilots Association, which represents 2,6000 members who fly UPS planes.

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